Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids has been designed specifically so that almost anyone who’s invested even a few hours into the base game can enjoy the experience- the power level requirements are low enough that you can get to it even if you’re far, far away from finishing the game. Narratively, then, it is meant to be pliable enough that it can fit in wherever you want it to- but that’s a bit of a double-edged sword. While the accessibility of the experience is obviously appreciated, it also feels a bit unneeded.
The story feels vastly disconnected from the base game, doesn’t expand upon or advance the series’ larger plot in any way, and ends up feeling like filler. Is it good filler? Sure- if you enjoyed Valhalla, there’s a lot to enjoy here, with a couple of new additions that stand out. But Valhalla is a pretty damn long game in and of itself – you can easily spend upwards of 80 hours, perhaps even a hundred, trying to get to the credits – so if you find that you’ve had your fill with what the game had to offer, Wrath of the Druids doesn’t have anything compelling enough that might convince you otherwise. It is very specifically for those who want more of the same.
“Ireland is gorgeous and varied and is always begging you to explore all of its nooks and crannies, and from its rocky hills to swampy forests to stunning green plains, it also sets itself apart from the base game’s England and Norway quite successfully.”
In Wrath of the Druids, Eivor leaves England behind and travels instead to Ireland, meeting with his cousin Barid. Barid, as it turns out, has become the king of Dublin, and he seeks to solidify this position by gaining favour with Flann Sinn, the High King of Ireland. But things are complicated, of course. The people of Ireland are facing something of a crises as they look to reconcile their culture and way of life in the face of the things being imposed on them by their new leaders. Meanwhile, the Children of Danu, a cult of druids viciously fighting to protect the old ways, is also sowing chaos all across the region.
Much like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla itself, Wrath of the Druids is steeped in political intrigue and large-scale plots involving kings and alliances and what have you, and though some of it is clumsily executed, by and large, it’s an engaging enough plot. It helps that there are a few strong characters here to latch on to, from Barid and his struggles to retain his crown to the enigmatic Azar to the bard named Ciara, who is probably the most interesting character in the entire expansion. As a self-contained story, Wrath of the Druids is quite good- it just fails to add anything meaningful to the larger experience, which feels a little strange in comparison to the expansions for both Origins and Odyssey, which all felt surprisingly essential to the plot in several ways.
On the gameplay front, Wrath of the Druids is a much more resounding success. Ireland is the biggest draw here, of course, as an entirely and quite sizeable new region to explore. Valhalla’s open world design was absolutely fantastic, in terms of size, variety, beauty, and how it encouraged exploration, and all of that is true here as well. Ireland is gorgeous and varied and is always begging you to explore all of its nooks and crannies, and from its rocky hills to swampy forests to stunning green plains, it also sets itself apart from the base game’s England and Norway quite successfully.
The biggest gameplay system introduced here is that of trading- your primary way of helping Barid cement his position as the king of Dublin is through economic means. Throughout the expansion, you attempt to establish trading routes and increase the economic inflow of Dublin, and in turn watch the city itself expand and prosper. This is done primarily by clearing forts of enemies and then establishing trading outposts there in order to improve Dublin’s standing as a hub of trade. Outposts can also be upgraded with resources you get from exploring and raiding, and they, in turn, automatically generate other special resources on a timer in the background, which can be used to unlock gear and cosmetics. It’s an addictive loop, and reaping the rewards from it on both a macro and micro scale feels very rewarding.
Royal Demands are less engaging, however. These are essentially assassination contracts from the classic Assassin’s Creed titles- hell, you even get them from pigeon coops scattered throughout the map. As repeatable activities, they feel procedural by design, giving you simple tasks, like killing enemies without being detected, in exchange of rewards and bonuses. They don’t really add much to the experience though, and honestly, sort of recede into the background most of the times.
There are also new enemy types to fight in the titular druids, who use powerful hallucinatory fumes to allow themselves to tread more freely in mystical and fantastical realms, as Assassin’s Creed has become rather fond of doing in recent years. Druids are formidable foes, and these fights also let you fight against creatures that are werewolves in all but name- as you’d expect, these are the best combat encounters in the game. Meanwhile, hunting down members of the Children of Danu is essentially a retooled version of the Order of the Ancients system from the base game, though the expansion puts more of a focus on this system than the base game does at times- which is a good thing, because tracking clues and hunting down targets is always a lot of fun.
“Druids are formidable foes, and these fights also let you fight against creatures that are werewolves in all but name- as you’d expect, these are the best combat encounters in the game.”
Then there are other activities that are littered throughout the open world that you’ll be more than familiar with if you’ve played the base game, from hunting special creatures to rock cairns to raids and more. New cosmetics and armour sets are also in here, as are a few new abilities that work really well in both combat and stealth (such as smoke bomb arrows and the ability to summon a wolfhound).
Ultimately, how much mileage you get out of Wrath of the Druids will depend on how you’re feeling about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla right now. This is, by design, an extension of the base game, and truth to be told, it’s not exactly essential- so if you’re looking for more of the same, this should be more than enough to keep you happy until the next big content drop comes. If, however, you’re not going to jump back into this already massive game until something entirely new and exciting comes along and forces you to reconsider- well, this isn’t that.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Ireland is beautiful and fun to explore; Interesting story and characters; The trading system is addictive; Druids are excellent enemies.
Story feels very self-contained, and consequently, unimportant; Royal Demands don’t add much to the experience.
Wrath of the Druids is an enjoyable addition to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s epic journey, even though it can feel a bit inessential.